Uta Hagen, on her definition of bad acting

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  • Uta Hagen, on her definition of bad acting:

    ‘If you can see what an actor has pre-arranged, it’s bad acting.’

    (arranged by Carmichael Phillips)


    (Uta Hagen)


    When I go to the theater, if I can see the acting, I already don’t like it.


    Uta Hagen, already a successful actress, became an even more successful and impactful acting teacher. She wrote books about the craft of acting, including Respect for Acting (1973) and Challenge for the Actor (1991). Hagen also taught at New York’s Herbert Berghof Studio.

  • While teaching a class one day, she described what bad acting looks like, in her opinion.

    “When I go to the theater, if I can see the acting, I already don’t like it.”

    “In other words, if it’s the performer and his mind and his speculations and what he fixes and arranges is visible to me, it’s bad acting, in my opinion.”

    “When I believe there’s a human being in action up there, in that moment, alive, right there and then, I get spellbound.”


    When you really achieve that ability to place yourself into the shoes of another human being, it’s the ultimate experience.


    “Now, to achieve that is, to me, harder than playing an instrument. It’s harder than fiddles. It’s harder than dancing. It’s harder than all the other performing arts, in my opinion.”

    “When you really achieve that understanding of human beings, that ability to place yourself into the shoes of another human being and reveal that life on stage it’s, to me, the ultimate experience.”

    Uta Hagen was elected to the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1981. She died on January 14, 2004, after suffering a stroke in 2001.


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